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Skype helps courts cut costs

20 December 2010

Pressure on costs combined with a steady rise in workload has led to greater use of technology in court including the free internet phone service Skype, the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal’s annual report has revealed.

Appeal judges hope use of technology will increase, speeding up processes and saving costs, but is aware that technological improvement comes at a price.

International video conferencing, although cheaper than flying witnesses based abroad to the UK, can cost £1,000 per hour, to which must be added the cost of equipment hire.

As an alternative the Court of Appeal used Skype for the first time last year, saying it was “a useful alternative and significantly cheaper”.

Hinting that the court was likely to consider Skype further, the report said this could “enable witnesses to give evidence from a wider range of locations, and avoid them having to travel to special conference facilities as all that is needed is a quiet room and a computer connected to the internet”.

The report shows an increase in the number of full conviction appeals from 431 in 2009 to 488 in 2010, and from 1,891 to 2,136 full sentence appeals.

Over the same period the number of applications for leave to appeal conviction went down from 1,336 to 1,114 and for leave to appeal sentence from 4,737 to 4,110.

Video link hearings were held with 128 locations, including 35 prisons. The technology has also made it possible to involve appellants detained in different prisons at the same time.

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